Very early on May 25 I flew from Buenos Aires, Argentina to São Paulo, Brazil. I then spent the day in the LATAM VIP lounge at Guarulhos International Airport before flying to Madrid in Iberia Business Class on an Airbus 330–the subject of this post.
Here’s an index to give my whole travel experience from Argentina to Spain some cohesion.
- Anatomy of an Award: Buenos Aires to São Paulo in Gol Economy for 9k Etihad miles
- São Paulo’s LATAM VIP Lounge Report
- Anatomy of an Award: São Paulo to Madrid in Iberia Business Class for 42,500 British Airways Avios
- Trip Report: São Paulo to Madrid in Iberia Business Class (this post)
Iberia Flight 6824
São Paulo (GRU) – Madrid (MAD)
Departed: 3:05 PM on Thursday, May 25, 2017
Arrived: 6:15 AM next day
Duration: 10 hours, 10 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus 330
Seat: 2H (Business Class)
Before my flight to Madrid, I spent a few luxurious hours in the LATAM VIP lounge. A little after the time we were scheduled to board, I reluctantly left and headed towards the gate. The line for general boarding snaked around in a lengthy file but with my Business Class boarding pass in hand, I was able to walk right on the plane via the forward door, which only Business Class passengers boarded through. 28 out of the 36 Business Class seats are grouped together in one cabin, and my seat (2H) was in the front of that cabin. Economy and Business Class passengers in the last two rows board via a separate door behind the first seven rows of Business Class.
Before Take Off
The first thing offered to Business Class passengers after we sat down was a variety of newspapers and magazines.
Immediately after came a hot, moist towel.
Next came an offer of either Cava (Spanish sparkling wine, this one was a Brut Cava from Guarda Vieja) or orange juice. I chose the Cava, which wasn’t amazing but at least was refreshing and dry.
Right before takeoff they handed out a folder to each passenger with menus for dinner, breakfast, drinks, and snacks, a packet titled Bodega with history and in depth descriptions about the wine offered on the flight, and a catalogue of luxury products.
My first impression of the cabin crew was a good one. Service seemed prompt but not rushed, and the flight attendants seemed genuinely kind and attentive, but in a calm and subtle manner.
My Iberia flight was on an Airbus A330. Business Class features 36 totally flat bed (180 degree recline) seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, so every seat has aisle access.
As you can see on the seat map, the privacy of Business Class seats on the A330 differs because some have an ottoman that act as a barrier between the seat and the aisle, while some have their ottoman between the seat and the window or between the coupled seats. On the seat map, the little darker gray ovals that look like armrests alongside the seats are the ottomans. Each has multiple storage areas, a fold out table for eating, a reading light, a control panel for the seat and entertainment system, and a charging station.
Which seat is best will depend on how you’re traveling. For solo travelers, the window seats with the barrier between the seat and aisle would have the most privacy. If you’re a couple, however, the middle seats with the barriers facing the aisle would probably be best. When I booked this award and chose my seat, there were no more seats with an ottoman between the seat and aisle so I slept right next to the aisle. If you fly Iberia on the A330, I recommend choosing a seat with an ottoman barrier to the aisle. It’s more like a suite with significantly more privacy. This was my seat, 2H…
I had plenty of room to stretch out my feet all the way in front of me and store a small bag underneath the TV.
Conveniently there was also a place to store those magazines/newspapers which had been previously offered.
The seat controls allow you to angle your seat at varying degrees, from straight upright to totally flat. All the buttons worked. The buttons at the bottom control two different lights.
Next to the seat controls on the ottoman is the entertainment system’s remote. Again, all buttons functioned as they should.
Underneath the control panel was the fold out table, and below that another storage area which I found to be the perfect amount ofspace for my phone and Kindle.
There was also a full charging station at the very base of the ottoman, which is great for arriving to your destination with fully charged electronics.
After Take Off
Preparing for Dinner
Once at cruising altitude, a flight attendant gave me the choice between dried fruits or olives (both very traditional finger foods for Spaniards), as well as a wine. I chose olives and a La Rioja red wine, both of which were more delicious than I was expecting.
I noticed at this point that the crew was impressively attune to the passengers and their needs, on top of being warm and friendly. The flight attendant noticed when I was working, and instead of vocally interrupting me, used hand motions instead. Being someone that is easily distracted when I’m writing, I highly appreciated the consideration.
I knew a request for a dinner order was coming up soon at that point, so I perused the menus to see which dishes I wanted.
I would be served all the listed appetizers so only needed to choose between the mains and a dessert. Deciding on the chicken was uncharacteristic of me as I usually avoid it on planes, but as it was stuffed with goat cheese and covered in a red wine sauce I figured it would be difficult for the bird to get too dried out (my usual fear). For dessert I chose the tangerine ice cream with chocolate flakes. I told the flight attendant my choices when she came around a few minutes later.
I found it a bit strange that all the starters came out at once, instead of staggered in different courses like I’ve experienced on most premium cabin flights. That being said, it didn’t bother me since I was looking forward to getting to sleep as soon as possible. I’d had a very long couple days prior.
The cheeses were all excellent, as were the marinated shrimp (sweet, not the least bit fishy) and spicy chopped vegetable slaw on the side. The side salad was nothing special but fresh at the least. The only complaint from the starters was the stale tasteless bread.
As I have a soft spot for miniature objects, I had to include a picture of the teensy tiny balsamic + olive oil dressing bottle and salt & pepper shakers 🙂
The chicken entree, stuffed with spinach and goat cheese and topped with a red wine and honey sauce with sautéed cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and potatoes was served next. I’d give it a 7 out of 10.
The presentation was nothing special, but the flavor and quality were better than they might look.
The dessert–served with a port wine, which was fine–was the lowlight of the meal in terms of service and quality. The ice cream was far too sweet and an odd texture, and was put down to the side of my table when I was still eating my main course. Like I said before, I was happy to have a somewhat expedited meal process as I wanted to get to sleep, but serving a dessert when a passenger is still eating another course seems too rushed.
I wasn’t planning on watching a movie, but I checked out the entertainment system anyways to see what was available.
There were a variety of movies, TV shows, music, kids shows, and games to entertain any age.
Noise-canceling headphones were provided for enjoying the entertainment system, which was a nice touch.
There was also internet available for a fee. At one point in the flight one of the cabin crew offered a code to enter for a small amount of free internet, which I tried to use. Unfortunately it didn’t work.
After dinner and a quick check of the entertainment system, I pulled out the amenity kit. All toiletries were by the french company L’Occitane.
- Face Toilette
- Lip Balm
- Hand cream
- Body cream
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- Facial tissue
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
I collect amenity kit lip balms, so was excited to see a nice one included here.
Preparing for Bed and Sleeping
I was exhausted and overjoyed that it was finally time to prepare my bed. I reclined my seat to a fully flat position and laid out the comforter and pillow that I had stored away up until that point. The bedding was soft and very comfortable, and covered me shoulder to foot with enough extra blanket left to get snuggle in. For reference, I’m 5’7″.
I found the cabin temperature to be just right. The seat was quite comfortable as a bed–cushy and firm–and wide enough to not feel cramped whatsoever. Business seats on Iberia’s A330 are 26 inches wide.
If you check out the picture above you’ll see a little sign hanging to the left of the TV. While just a small piece of paper, this sign was one of my favorite feature of this Business Class experience. Here’s a close-up picture.
The sign is a simple yet smart way of allowing you to communicate with the crew about when you don’t want to be bothered. Exactly the same as a Do Not Disturb sign you might hang on your hotel door.
One negative to note, much like my United BusinessFirst flight from Houston to Buenos Aires, is that I wasn’t asked whether or not I wanted to be woken up for breakfast. I woke up anyways and removed my “Time to rest” sign to signal that I did want breakfast. But had I been sleeping more heavily I might have just slept through the whole thing, or perhaps been woken when I hadn’t wanted to be. I think preference over breakfast should always be addressed with the passenger before they fall asleep.
Upon waking up, I found a water bottle resting on my ottoman which was appreciated. Not long after breakfast arrived, which included bread, fruit, a croissant, ham, roasted chicken, yogurt, and orange juice, and coffee.
I didn’t have much of an appetite but ate the fruit and orange juice which were both fresh and the croissant which was decent.
Arrival in Madrid
The arrival in Madrid was, thankfully, non-eventful. Exiting the plane quickly positioned me in the beginning of the immigrations line which I breezed through. I then picked up my luggage and headed out of the airport.
I found the seat, bed, and bedding to be very comfortable. No complaints in this department. Cabin temperature was on point.
I didn’t consume any of the entertainment offered on the plane but scrolling through the selection of movies and TV shows there appeared to be a large and nice variety. While I’ve seen plenty of over the ear headphones in premium cabins, the noise-canceling feature is an extra luxury you don’t always see.
The fact that the internet didn’t work when I tried to put in the code for my free allotment was a negative.
The service was excellent right up until the end of dinner. Before takeoff and through most of the meal I felt as though all my needs were anticipated and taken care in a way that was unobtrusive to what I was doing (working). Service started to slip a bit when the end of dinner became rushed, followed by no one asking my preference over breakfast. It all worked out in the end as I woke up and removed my “Time to rest” sign to let it be known I wanted breakfast, but that detail is an important one that wasn’t addressed and left up to chance.
Overall the food was much better than what you’d get on an American legacy carrier in Business Class, but not fantastic. All the drinks I tried (mostly wine and the cava) were above average. My favorite plate was the marinated shrimp. Avoid the ice cream!
Flying Iberia Business Class from São Paulo to Madrid for 42,500 Avios and no fuel surcharges is a great deal comparatively, especially now that the other best deal between Southern South America and Europe, redeeming Singapore miles on Singapore Airlines, no longer flies the São Paulo to Barcelona route.
And trying to fly out of any other big airport in Southern South America to Madrid and the majority of awards will incur fuel surcharges. Flying out of Brazil means no airline can collect fuel surcharges as it’s against the law.
Considering the circumstances and the solid quality product, I would highly recommend Iberia Business Class on the A330.
How to Book Yourself Iberia Business Class
Previously you had to search for Iberia award space on British Airway’s website, which is always kind of pain in the butt since you can only check day by day. Just last week Iberia award space started showing up in results on aa.com, which has a much easier search tool to use as you can see a month of award space at a time.
Membership Rewards transfer to British Airways Avios, but the normal rate isn’t so favorable. Ideally you’d want to collect Avios earned from the British Airways credit card issued by Chase, or Ultimate Rewards or SPG points which both transfer 1:1 to Avios.
All of the following cards earn big sign up bonuses of Ultimate Rewards:
- Sapphire Reserve – 50k Ultimate Rewards for spending $3,000 in three months
- Sapphire Preferred – 50k Ultimate Rewards for spending $3,000 in three months
- Ink Business Preferred – 80k Ultimate Rewards for spending $5,000 in three months
- British Airways Visa Signature Card – 50k Avios for spending $3,000 in three months (with tiered bonuses for spending more)
All of the above cards are issued by Chase. Check out our Top Ten Travel Credit Card List to learn more about them.
Or if you’re locked out of Chase cards from the 5/24 rule, you could go for SPG points via the Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards (there’s a personal and business version). Each come with a 25k SPG point bonus for spending $3k on the personal card and $5k on the business card within three months of opening them.